LEX WOULDN’T NORMALLY BE CAUGHT DEAD IN A FRENCH RESTAURANT
but it’s prom night, and Lucy seems to think gowns and tuxes go with ratatouille and bouillabaisse. So here they are—surrounded by white tablecloths,
candle centerpieces, and more forks than Alex knows what to do with. What to
talk about? There’s at least an hour before the dance starts.
Lucy looks at the forks, and she is also mystified. What did she get herself into, asking to
come here? The waiter saves them from the uncomfortable silence, offering the menu from
memory. Alex hears the waiter say “mussels” and latches on to that. “We’ll start with the
mussels.” Lucy smiles.
The waiter brings them a bowl each,
a larger one “for the shells,” he murmurs, and, eventually, a platter of blue
shells, thin but long, steamed open to
reveal ovals of amber-colored meat.
Lucy watches the waiter leave and then
gently pokes one of the shells on the
platter. “My mom’s been talking about
Alex groans inside. Not another story about
her mom, the awesome surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. How is he
supposed to bring up his prom surprise if she
is raving about her mom?
Lucy notices the look on his face.
“I promise it’s cool.”
Alex’s eyebrows go up.
“And bloody.” She tries again.
Alex grins. “Sure this is the right place for
Lucy turns over the mussel with a spoon.
“Right here is where the beard would be.
Cooks take it off to make them look better to
eat. Mussels use their beards to stick to stuff,
right?” she says.
Alex shrugs: “Sure.”
“Well, the hope is that you can use mussel
glue to hold people’s organs together after
you operate on them. Right now we use
sutures, little stitches, but sometimes those
Just great, Alex thinks. How is he supposed
to go from surgery to his romantic surprise?
“So the surgeon is in the operating room
with somebody cut open on the table,” Lucy
says, tossing a mussel shell into the larger
bowl, “with blood and fluids all over.”
Alex groans. Lucy smiles at him and goes
on. “What can the surgeon do? She needs
something that will help hold the organs and
tissues together inside the body. Where, you
know, it’s wet. So Elmer’s isn’t going to work.
They use a different type of glue called a bioglue, which works like mussel glue. They’ve
tried out this glue with rats, and it’s really
Lucy remembers her mom saying that the
mussel glue works so well because of proteins
the mussels use to bind to rocks underwater.
Her mother told her that the mussel glue
contains long molecules formed by the covalent bonding of repeating smaller molecules
known as amino acids.
“How does the mussel use this glue?” Alex
“The mussel has a foot that mashes down
against a surface, which pushes all the water
out. Then the foot injects its sticky stuff
against a rock, a ship, or another hard surface.”
By Mary Alexandra Agner
8 ChemMatters | FEBRUARY/MARCH 2016 www.acs.org/chemmatters
Stuck on You